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The idea that consumers can customize their own products on a massive scale is having a tremendous impact on customer experience and expectations as well as the way organizations approach R&D. Following an extensive study of mass customization in the domain of consumer goods, this upcoming series of articles provides an overview on mass customization, its strategic capabilities, and the success factors that drive its implementation in business.

Mass customization aims to profit from people’s differences by enabling the creation of goods and services that best serve individual customers’ personal needs with near mass production efficiency. While the basic idea of mass customization has been described for quite some time, it is only now that we can observe a larger scale and scope of implementations in business. Forrester Research recently concluded that finally, after a number of attempts, the time has come for a large scale implementation mass customization.

Mass customization is closely related to customer co-creation, one of the core strategies that today shape a modern corporate innovation management system. In a series of articles, we want to provide an overview on mass customization, its strategic capabilities, and the success factors that drive its implementation in business. The articles build on the results of the Customization 500, the largest study of mass customization in the domain of consumer goods. Its objective was to map the current market of mass customization and to understand its drivers of success.

Mass customization series at Innovation Management

Introduction: A special series of articles on mass customization and customer co-design

Part 1: Competing in the Age of Mass Customization

Part 2: The market for mass customization today

Part 3: Solution Space Development: Understanding where customers are different

Part 4: Robust Process Design: Fulfilling individual customer needs without compromising performance

Part 5: Choice Navigation: Turning burden of choice into an experience

Part 6: Choice Navigation in Reality: A closer look into the Customization500

Part 7: Overcoming the Challenges of Implementing Mass Customization

Part 8: A Balanced View: Conclusions and Key Learnings

Further information / Links: More information on the Customization500 study and a list of the 500 companies included. A blog on mass customization and customer co-creation. Access to the proceedings of the last MCPC conference, the largest event in the area. These proceedings cover many dozens of case studies, latest research, 2500+ slides, and 15+ hours of video of the plenary presentations.

About our research

This series of articles is built on a long stream of research by us and some very good colleagues. Key publications where these postings are built upon include:

  1. Dominik Walcher & Frank Piller: The Customization 500. An International Benchmark Study on Mass Customization and Personalization in Consumer E-Commerce. Raleigh, NC: Lulu Inc. 2012. [ISBN 978-1-4710-0303-5] –
  2. Fabrizio Salvador, Martin de Holan and Frank Piller: Cracking the Code of Mass Customization. MIT Sloan Management Review, 50 (2009) 3 (Spring 2009): 70-79.
  3. Piller, Frank T. Mass Customization: A Strategy for Customer-Centric Enterprises – A Review of the Strategic Capabilities to Make Mass Customization Work (RWTH Aachen University, December 6, 2010). Available at SSRN Working Paper Series:

About the authors

Frank Piller is a chair professor of management and the director of the Technology & Innovation Management Group at RWTH Aachen University. He also is a founding faculty member and the co-director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on mass customization, personalization, and open innovation. Frank’s recent research focuses on innovation interfaces: How can organizations increase innovation success by designing and managing better interfaces within their organization and with external actors.



Fabrizio Salvador is Professor of Operations Management at Instituto de Empresa Business School, Adjunct Professor at the MIT-Zaragoza Logistics Program and Research Affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on operation strategy in uncertain environments and customer-centric organization design. He has been researching such topics as mass customization, concurrent product-process-supply chain design and organization design for efficient product configuration. His research has been published in many prestigious academic journals, and he is co-authoring the book “Information Management for Mass Customization” . He received a Ph.D in Operations Management from the University of Padova, where he also graduated in Industrial Engineering.



Dominik Walcher is professor for marketing and innovation management at Salzburg University of Applied Sciences / School for Design and Product Management. He studied architecture and management at the University of Stuttgart, the Technical University Munich (TUM), and the University of California at Berkeley. His doctoral thesis about mass customization and ideation contests was awarded with several prizes. In the last years, he has extended his field of research to brand management, business creation and sustainability marketing. He was a co-founder of a startup company in the field of customizable and eco-intelligent products.